Matt Haywood quit Sheffield to progress ice hockey career

The development of teenage ice hockey talent in Sheffield is rightfully earning a global reputation with players like Liam Kirk and Alex Graham coming through the ranks, playing for Steelers before heading onwards and upwards.

By Bob Westerdale
Sunday, 15th August 2021, 2:04 pm

But there are examples of other local youngsters who came through iceSheffield only to miss out on Steelers...and Steelers certainly missed out on them.

The most obvious example is Great Britain's number one goaltender Ben Bowns.

At 21, the Swinton netminder left the area to embark on a decorated career centred mainly on Cardiff Devils and the GB national team. He's just been recruited by a crack Slovakian outfit.

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Bowns isn't alone at being overlooked as a youngster by his home team.

Take the case of Doncaster's Matt Haywood.

The iceSheffield graduate played four games for Steelers in 2009-10 and looked set to achieve his dream at the team he'd supported as a boy.

Instead, Haywood took a punt on joining the then-new Braehead Clan team (later to be renamed, Glasgow.)

Matt Haywood, pic courtesy of Al Goold.

Over the next 11 years, the forward proudly sported Clan's colours and last year he became the first player in the team's history to be awarded a testimonial. Around 2,700 fans attended that tribute, at the Braehead Arena.

He's just won a new contract north of the border.

Haywood feels fortunate to have made the switch all those years ago.

His parents and grandmother still live in South Yorkshire, but Glasgow is now where Haywood's heart is.

Matt Haywood, pic courtesy of Al Goold.

Today, the former Rossington High School boy, now aged 30, gave an insight into his life and occupation in a Q&A session with The Star.

Q: How did you get into hockey?

A: My Dad's auntie and uncle lived in Canada and when they moved back they wanted to find out who played the sport in the UK. Steelers were the closest team so we went to watch and fell in love, right then. I played for Sheffield juniors from U10s up to the old Scimitars, (2010.)

Q: You were one of the first to play at the 2003-built iceSheffield. Your memories?

Matt Haywood, pic courtesy of Al Goold.

A: I think I actually played the first game there against an American select team. There are a lot of memories as we won a lot and because we had such an amazing junior set-up.

Q: Are there any recollections from the Scimitars' days playing with Robert Farmer, Ron Shudra, Robert Dowd, Les Millie, Steve Roberts etc?

A: It was nice to train and learn while playing with those guys and then me and Robert Farmer moved up (Steelers.)

Q: Do you regard yourself and Bowns as the 'ones that got away' from Sheffield's top-flight programme?

A: I feel there has been numerous people that were 'the ones that got away' from there. It was such a good set-up and was under-utilised in my opinion.

Q: How many 'under-utilised' players are you referring to?

Ben Bowns.

A: Too many! I think they only took Dowdy, (Robert Dowd) Farmer and Kirky.

Q: In 2009-10, you played four games for Steelers, with the likes of Jeff Legue and Joey Talbot under Dave Matsos. Your impressions?

A: I remember the games, especially the one Boxing Day game at Nottingham Panthers, (lost 1-2.) I was so excited because they were the big games I watched as a kid and now I was playing in one.

Q: In the next year, when Ben Simon coached Steelers, you signed for Braehead. Had there been any interest in you from Steelers and other teams?

A: There was a little interest. But Braehead stuck out to me because it was a new team and it felt like a great place for me to go and establish myself. I’m glad I did!

Q: When you play Sheffield does the match provide any extra motivation?

A: Maybe at first, but they are just another team. It is nice to see my family at the away games though.

Q: How would you describe your attachment to Glasgow?

A: I’ve made a great life. I met my wife and have two amazing girls. The best decision I have ever made.

Q: Can Glasgow make history and win a major title over the next few years?

A: I believe so, hopefully, we can kick on and win major honours.

Q: Who has been the greatest influence on you in your career?

A: My parents, wife and brother.

Q: How would you sum up your GB days? (Five caps.)

A: Short and sweet. I’m glad I got the opportunity, of course, I would love to play again. Representing your country is the biggest honour you can have.